Elk River Flood Solution Strategy Summary

Description:

The Elk River Flood Solutions Strategy (Flood Strategy) is a coordinated approach to improve community understanding of the nature/behaviour of the Elk River’s hydrology, document the chronology of community preparedness and our historic response to flooding, examine flood mitigation practices that can enhance both natural watershed function and wildlife habitat, and model flood risk zones based on changing watershed conditions.  The end result of the Flood Strategy is to provide decision makers and the public, information and data analysis recommending long, medium and short-range solutions to flooding impacts in the Elk River watershed.  Priority is focused on personal safety and the protection of homes and infrastructure, while protecting watershed function and wildlife habitat. 

 

Goals of the Strategy:

  1. Achieve a better understanding of Elk River hydrology.
  2. Model future scenarios of flood frequency/severity and the effects on communities.
  3. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis of flood preparedness and mitigation options in order to identify alternatives that protect urban infrastructure and human safety/property, as well as protect and enhance both natural watershed function and wildlife habitat.
  4. Promote a watershed approach to flood mitigation to encourage the integration of government policies, industrial practices and community efforts.
  5. Support decision makers to implement the best flood mitigation practices throughout the Elk River watershed. 
  6. Increase community watershed literacy of the past, current and future impacts of flooding.

 

Issue: 

As evidenced by floods in 1995, 2005 and 2013, our changing climate may produce a greater frequency and severity of flood events in the Elk River watershed.  In response to this new reality, communities have the most to gain if solutions to flooding increase our resilience, are cost effective, timely and protect the environment.  To date, our usual response to flooding has been to construct more and fortified rip rapped dikes, which can be costly to build and maintain, are not fail proof, and do not always benefit watershed function and aquatic ecosystems. 

 

Captured in the City of Fernie minutes from a meeting of elected municipal leaders, government staff, as well as industry and community representatives following the 2013 flood, participants expressed a “desire to be proactive and collaborate between municipal councils to think holistically on a watershed scale”.  There was a willingness amongst those attending the meeting to share mapping data and information, energy and resources that explore both hard (i.e. engineered dikes) and soft (i.e. zoning regulations, riparian protection, wetland reconstruction) approaches to flood preparedness and mitigation. 

 

Role of the Elk River Alliance (ERA):

The role of ERA will be to coordinate partners in a practical and cost efficient approach that leverages funding and efficient use of resources between all levels of government (First Nations/federal/provincial/municipal), industry, academics, non-government organizations, ongoing planning processes (e.g. Elk Valley Cumulative Effects Management Framework) and individuals. Focus will be on integrating with existing decision-making processes, products that compliment rather than duplicate efforts, all in an effort to support sustainable water decisions. 

 

Expected Outcomes of the Flood Strategy:

  • Prepare an accessible, understandable report on the hydrology of the Elk River, and our response to historical flooding. 
  • Support government responsibility to long-range plan for floods in the watershed. 
  • Build on the ERA “Elk River Watershed Valley Bottom Assessment” using orthophoto and LiDAR data to predict the threat of flooding with state-of-the-art modeling and animation. 
  • Watershed wide consultation in-person and on-line will provide input on acceptable and relevant flood preparedness and mitigation strategies.
  • Fill in the gaps between communities in the RDEK, promoting watershed wide planning.
  • Quantify the downstream effects of erosion control and slope stabilization techniques. 
  • Deliver a watershed-wide community outreach program during the summer of 2015, intended to increase flood literacy and to serve as a catalyst for conversation around flood solutions.
  • Provide background research, prioritization, and community buy-in for future flood mitigation measures in RDEK Area A.

 

Considerations of this Flood Strategy:

A.  Collaboration and Leveraged Funding: 1) ERA has a data sharing agreement with Teck for use of 2011 and 2012 orthophoto and LiDAR imaging - valued at  $20,000.  2) Relationship established with the University of Lethbridge Ph.D. and post Doctoral candidates in hydrology to prepare a hydrological assessment of the Elk River and its flooding behavior using a model generating future scenarios based on changing watershed conditions - valued in-kind/cash at $97,500. 3) Confirmed funding to date:  Real Estate Foundation BC Grant -$40,000; RDEK Community Initiatives Grant - $4,750; Teck - $7,650; and CBT Environmental Initiatives Grant - $49,670; RDEK Area A Flood Mitigation Service Area Fund - $100,000.

 

B.  Existing Opportunities: Integrate existing flood reports/documents/GIS data with ongoing watershed planning processes such as the Elk Valley Cumulative Effects Management Framework, new/revised/existing municipal OCP’s, RDEK Area A Flood Control Service Area, National/Provincial Floodplain Mapping, as well as Teck’s Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program, and implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.  Produce HEC-RAS hydrology modeling in RDEK priority areas.

 

C.  Challenges:  Compile all of the existing flood reports/studies to better understand flooding in the Elk Valley, identify gaps in the existing knowledge to be filled with additional research and store this information in a central location as important baseline information for future reference.  Integrate existing climate change information from CBT Communities Adapting to Climate Change into future river modeling. Integrate Ktunaxa pre-European models of the Elk Valley.  Develop specific, watershed-wide flood preparedness and mitigation strategies for adoption by local government, industry, and private landowners to mitigate negative and costly effects of flooding to Elk River communities and protect watershed function and wildlife habitat. 

 

D.  Timeline:  1) Develop project scope and workplan based on key questions generated by the Flood Solutions Working Group and secure the project consulting team (Feb. 2015). 2) Prepare an outline for the Elk River hydrology report (May 2015). 3) Develop a flood visualization tool to better understand real/relevant future scenarios (Sept. 2015). 4) Complete the Elk River Flood Hydrology Report, which includes a chronology of flooding and the successes and failures of flood mitigation strategies (May 2015).  5) Develop and deliver a community flood outreach program (April-August 2015).  6) Produce an easy to understand literature review and cost/benefit analysis of innovative and made-in-the-Elk Valley flood mitigation strategies (Oct. 2015).  7) Provide future flood mitigation concepts in RDEK Area A Jan. 2016. 8) Celebrate and community presentation of the Flood Strategy (Feb. 2016). 

 

Summary:   Times of need spark collaboration for innovative long, medium and short range solutions that can be applied to a made in the Elk River watershed flood strategy.

Survey: We are collecting information from the community about their experience with floods in the Elk Valley and plans for the future.  Please help us by filling out this 11 question survey

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Elk River Alliance
a community-based water group that aims to connect people to the Elk River ensuring it is drinkable, fishable and swimmable for future generations.